Nelly Bassily | May 26, 2008
One of the many reasons that food prices have risen so dramatically in recent months is the increasing cost of inputs, especially fertilizers. The high cost of inputs has reduced profits for some farmers, despite the higher prices paid by consumers. In the face of these challenges, easier-to-grow traditional crops are attracting interest. Traditional crops have adapted to local climatic conditions over hundreds of years. They are typically more resistant to drought and pests, and have lower fertilizer requirements. However, many traditional vegetables like African nightshade, spiderplant, and amaranthus have been ignored by the majority of farmers and consumers for years, despite their hardiness and nutritional value.
Several organizations are working with African farmers to help revive these “forgotten” traditional crops. For more information, please visit:
–“Lost crops of Africa: Volume II: Vegetables,” a publication of the National Academies Press
–Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Crops, a blog about crops with untapped nutritional and economic value
You may also wish to review the following news stories about traditional fruits and grains, from past issues of FRW:
–“Vitally important wild fruits on the decline” (FRW Issue 12, February 2008)
–“Re-discovery of traditional crops helps farmers cope with climate change” (FRW Issue 2, December 2007)
You may also consider hosting a call-in or text-in show that will get people talking about traditional vegetables grown and enjoyed in your area:
-Which traditional vegetables are grown in your area? Does anyone know if the variety or quantity of traditional vegetables grown is more or less than it was a few decades ago?
-Are there traditional vegetables that were grown by earlier generations, but that are no longer grown? Are there wild crops that were used in the past, but not now?
-Where do these traditional vegetables grow (e.g. in small family gardens, on commercial farms, in the wild)? How difficult is it to produce these traditional vegetables as opposed to non-local or exotic vegetables?
-How do the traditional vegetables vary in taste or use from non-local or exotic vegetables? Do people in your listening audience know how they differ in nutritional value?
-What is the difference in the price of traditional and exotic vegetables in local markets? What is the difference between farmer profit margins for traditional vegetables versus other crops